I think we’re in real trouble. I don’t know how this started or why, but I know it’s here and we’d be crazy to ignore it… The bird war, the bird attack, plague – call it what you like. They’re amassing out there someplace and they’ll be back. You can count on it… Unless we do something right now, unless we get Bodega Bay on the move, they… Mrs. Bundy said something about Santa Cruz, about seagulls getting lost in a fog and then flying in towards the lights… Make our own fog… we can use smoke pots the way the Army uses ’em.
– The Birds
When planning a trip down the Pacific Coast Highway with my mom and her friend, there was one stop we added that wasn’t really “on the way.” As fans of both Tippi Hedren and Alfred Hitchcock, there was no way we were missing Bodega Bay, the setting and filming location for the 1962 film The Birds. The film tells of a woman who visits a man she recently met but is stuck in his town after all the birds start to terrorize local residents. It’s an hour and a half drive north of San Francisco and the cute oceanfront town’s businesses mostly cater to film fans like us.
Bodega Bay was busy even during the windy February afternoon, so I could only imagine what summer looked like. We didn’t eat there but noticed The Birds Cafe, a themed restaurant overlooking the water. The main street was lined with surf shops, buoy covered restaurants, taffy stores, and souvenir shops. There was an event going on at the Bodega Bay Grange, the community center.
Beyond the main street, we stopped by The Children’s Bell Tower, a memorial to a local child who was killed tragically by a stray bullet while on vacation with his family in Italy. His parents decided to donate his organs in Italy, saving the lives of many children. People have sent bells from around the world to honor the life of Nicholas Green. A campground next door connects to the Coastal Prairie Trail, a 3-mile bike and pedestrian path with bird watching. Between Bodega Bay and Bodega, stop by The Tides (Bodega Bay), a restaurant used as the diner in The Birds. It has a gift shop and multiple dining options.
The unincorporated town of Bodega is also important for fans as it has locations used in the film. The Potter Schoolhouse, pictured second from top, was used as the school in the film. Today, it’s a landmark to pose in front of, but it’s a private residence. Built in 1873, it closed in 1961 and was used in The Birds the following year. After production, it sat vacant until a family bought it in 1966, who have retained it ever since. Saint Teresa of Avila Church was used in both The Birds and in a notable series by photographer Ansel Adams titled “Church and Road” in 1953. Bodega Country Store has a small deli and large collection of movie memorabilia. Casino Bar & Grill may look like a dive bar from the outside, but it’s so much more. Equal parts karaoke bar and restaurant, the menu is constantly changing and delicious, which is why the movie crew ate here frequently. Just be sure to bring cash.
*Note: I’ve recently learned that Bodega Country Store has closed its doors. Sad news!
These cute California towns are a welcome detour for road trippers making their way down the coast. Be sure to re-watch the film before you go!
If You Go
The easiest way to get to Bodega Bay is by renting a car in San Francisco and making the drive down Highway 101 on your own. If you’re looking for a day trip or weekend getaway without wheels, take bus 72 from the city’s financial district to Santa Rosa, where you’ll transfer to bus 95 to the coastal town.
If you want to stay overnight in the Bodegas, you can camp or park your RV at Bodega Dunes Campground. Sonoma Coast Villa and Spa is the only option in Bodega but has luxurious accommodations and a pool. The Inn at the Tides is perhaps the best well known in Bodega Bay, just across the street from The Tides Restaurant. There are ten or so other options as well, depending on your budget and needs.
Because of its location, most of the restaurants serve seafood. Fishetarian and Terrapin Creek both offer fresh seafood dishes in casual and upscale settings. The Dog House serves hot dogs and burgers, perfect for quick bites and families. The Tides and The Birds Cafe, mentioned earlier, are also options.
Beyond the movie memorabilia, these towns and the surrounding Sonoma Coast has other things to do. Bodega Head is a stunning overlook also featured in films. Sonoma Coast Vineyards has a tasting room where you can sample varieties from the area. Artisans’ Co-op showcases the work of local artists. Check out the Bodega Bay Community Farmer’s Market during weekends through the summer. During some parts of the year, you can spot whales off the coast.